Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eye on the Prize

I recently had a meeting with my boss on my yearly incentive goals. We had agreed on them in April and my bonus is contingent on completing the task. Honestly, I had forgotten them so I was amazed at my last incentive goal quarterly meeting how little I had accomplished. Somehow, I needed to get these goals in the forefront of my attention so I can complete them...which led me to today's Kaizen:

Here's my desk. I decided that I needed to put these goals where I could see them everyday so they will not slip my mind. A number of options came to mind like the wall behind my monitor, my side wall, a post it note, and so on. So, here's my desk before:

Since I want to keep these goals on the "forefront of my mind", I decided to tape them in front of my keyboard as in the picture below:

This little change will help me keep focused on these objectives that I need to complete by the end of the year. In addition, I can keep notes on it on how I am progressing very easily. So, here's some benefits of this little by little change:
  • Goals are easy to read
  • Goals are easy to update and note progress
  • No time spent searching for the paperwork
  • I'll see the goals everyday
Problems and failures like this lead to the best improvements. When you can use a kaizen to resolve small matters such as this, you feel like you did something right at work.

Dan Lafever

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Red beans and Rice

My wife Deena is a natural improver being raised on a farm. After all, she knows all kinds of tricks in the kitchen that make things easier and more ecomonical. Here's a kaizen recipe she came up with:

Take one box of

and add two cups of water and

then cook according to the directions and you get double helping of Red Beans and Rice.

Here summary of the improvement is as follows:
  • This recipe cuts the sodium per serving in half.
  • It cost an additional 22 cents versus buying another box of red beans and rice.
  • It feeds our family of six.
  • It reduces the waste of having two left over packages of red beans and rice.

We have adding our own basic ingredients stretches these kinds of mixes and made them healthier and cheaper. Based on our current consumption with all four kids, I estimate that this improvement saves us about $40 a year.

Feel free to share your own kitchen kaizen!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Breaking the 100 mile mark

Friday, July 25, marked a historic day for me. For the first time, I have commuted to work using my bicycle and passed the 100 mile mark. It feels good, not only saving gas and saving money, to be empowered in this way. Although I am a bit tired after riding over 7 miles, it's getting easier everytime I bike it. It's a great feeling to be in control, not dependent on petrol, and the ride on the back roads is mostly quiet and peaceful. I have also lost some weight which is good.
Another improvement is that my wife started biking and she has discovered a new activity that she enjoys. We are starting to bike together and this is our first true hobby we like to do together. So, this one improvement of getting to work on human powered transportation has had multiple benefits...and the only gas involved is...well...natural. ;)

Dan Lafever

Friday, July 25, 2008

Funny Video Friday

To improve morale and have more fun in the workplace, I have been sending out an email called "Funny Video Friday" to just have some fun and liven up the workplace. I got started forwarding clips around about fours months ago and they are usually short and are designed to add some laughs into your workday. Sometimes they are random and often they have a central theme. All of us deal with the drama of everyday work and this just a little bit of fun. This may not be a measurable improvement, but do they all have to be? Let's have some fun on the last day of the work may not fall over laughing but I hope it brightens your day.

Here's today's featured clip.

Dog days of summer...

Have a great weekend.

Dan Lafever

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Starting the Great Household Purge

Muda. That's the Japanese word for waste. Over the years, I have compiled a great deal of muda or what I call "stuff" and stored it around my house. It seems there is always a good reason to keep something someone gives me(or I salvage) until five years later when I can't remember the reason. I confess that I am a packrat and all that extra stuff justs adds to my clutter and reduces my available space. It's the America way of endless yard sales and two car garages that are full of junk. However I have decided to go lean and start the great household purge.

After speaking with my friend and minister Steve, I decided to join him as his family starts purging. From both a lean and spiritual perspective, purging the clutter has several positive effects which I will elaborate in the future. Realistically, it will take from 6-9 months to get this done since the muda didn't just get there overnight. However, I have spent about a month starting this process and here's a few benefits I have already experienced:

1) My camping gear is neatly organized in a 5S fashion in the garage. It takes no time(2-4 minutes) to pack things up for a weekend trip versus digging through storage.

2) I sold an old car, a broken down riding lawn mover, and an old refrigerator and collected a cool $1520 from all sales. The car had been sitting unused for two years!

3) The other car(yeah-too many vehicles...guilty as charged) I donated to a couple that the husband is dying of cancer. This is my treasure in heaven investment and I was glad to help them out. It's a great feeling to practice the Acts 2 principle of "sharing everything they had."

More of the great purge as it progresses. Keep on improving and murder the muda!

Dan Lafever

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Improve your miles per gallon

Using hypermiling techniques I averaged 41 mpg driving 65MPH with the AC on full blast on our family vacation(I drove a 2003 Honda Civic). Here's a primer below:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kaizen for the Help Desk Institute(HDI)

In my goal to "kaizen" my career, I submitted two speaker proposals to the help desk institute for their annual conference in 2009. One of those proposals is called the "Kaizen way" on how to put kaizen into practice in a call center/help desk. I spoke last year in Dallas at the conference on migrating to IP telephony and I am very proud of the feedback scores from the attendees. It is my goal to use my God given talents to help others! BTW, HDI has been a great boon to my career and I highly recommend it to other IT support professionals.

When I submitted my proposals, I got no response from the mailbox where they were to be sent so I wondered if anything made it there. I re-sent them 3 times and until I received an email from the program director I wasn't sure if they had made it. Today's kaizen was to suggest a confirmation email be sent after a speaker proposal is submitted so that speakers wouldn't go through the same waste of time that I experienced. I forwarded my idea and here's what I received back:

Hi, Dan,

The webmaster has assured me that he will add this notification capability going forward. Not a great help to you, but to others! Thanks for the idea.


It just goes to show that any process and even one you don't own can be improved. You're welcome HDI!

Dan Lafever

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Goat milk fudge

Thanks for the break! What a busy summer...

Just returned from my summer camp I invented five years ago for fathers and sons called "Dads camp". This year we rented a new camp site called "The Vine"( and we had a wonderful blessed time with the amazing Powell family. Part of the activities at the Vine included goat milking and making home made ice cream and fudge with the family-it was awesome. All of us at the camp give Chris, Kari, Emma, Kora, and Jacob the Dad's camp official seal of approval.

I noticed when Emma, Kora, or Kari was milking their goat(named Brooklyn), Brooklyn whacked the milk pail(not kick the bucket) with one leg when she was irritated because her chow was runing low. Emma would stop, go across the stall and grab more grain, throw it in the feeding trough,and then come back to resume miking. My Kaizen idea was to move the feed closer to the milking platform so that whoever was milking would improve their efficiency by reducing the time spent getting up and walking to adding more goat grub. With the food right next to the milking platform they could get to it faster as well as the added benefit of improved goat satisfaction. An even more interesting idea would be creating a way that when the goats stand on the milking platform that the animals weight would somehow trigger a device so that their food would automatically drop into the trough!

I would also like to thank the Powell family for the wonderful blessing from God that they were. We are so grateful for the Vine ministry and we hope to work with them in the future.

Dan Lafever